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So You Want to Bring Your Pet to Work

You can see it in his big, wet eyes: He wants to go on the hunt with you. Every day you leave for work, he follows you to the door as if to say “You are TERRIBLE at hunting! You never come home with game. Take me, I can help!” If only you could show him that the hunt got pretty boring over the last 10,000 years, he wouldn’t make you feel so bad about leaving him alone at home. But then again, bringing your number one fan to work might make the time pass a bit quicker…

Having your pet at the office can be a lot of fun for everyone, but it can also be rife with anxieties. It’s best to take a few steps before bringing your quadruped pal into the rat race. When it comes to bringing your pet to work, this breaks down into two categories: Dogs and non-dogs, such as cats, small rodents, birds, snakes, and so on.

The rules for everything that isn’t a dog are quite simple: Unless you are planning on keeping your pet in a cage or your pet is a professionally trained animal that responds to your every beck and call, don’t bring your pet to work.

That may sound unfair, but it’s important to remember that cats and specialty pets are semi-feral, terror-prone animals. Hamsters in a ball are awesome and lap cats can stop wars, but one misstep and you’ll be at your office past 9 p.m. trying to lure your pet out of a ceiling vent with your lunch leftovers. It’s not that you can’t bring your non-dog to work; it’s just that it’s pretty much a terrible idea. If you Google “bring your pet to work,” the first 20 returns replace “pet” for “dog.” Save yourself the stress; leave Mittens at home.

Even if your pet is a highly intelligent loyalist that literally evolved to be a friend and ally to humans, there are still quite a few precautions to take before bringing him to your place of business.

1. Get unanimous approval
This will come as a surprise to most pet owners, but not everyone loves animals. Some people have terrible allergies to dander, others have deep-seeded fears and bad memories, and some just genuinely think of pets as stinky filth bombs. Unless management has set aside a day for everyone to bring pets, email your boss to get the OK. Then get in touch with your co-workers to make sure it won’t inconvenience them. If your pet has any quirks or special needs, inform everyone so they’re all prepared to interact with your little buddy.

2. Be a good owner
This is just a formality bullet point because you’re already a good owner who keeps your pets up to date on shots. Have him wear a collar with a license tag and have a leash or harness ready. Play with your pet for a half hour before you head into the office so he’s feeling loved and a little lazy, and make sure to take him outside every few hours for relief and stimulation.

3. Train your pet
This doesn’t mean your dog has to be ready for a video shoot or obstacle course, or even that it has to be particularly smart. Your pet doesn’t have to be Westminster ready, but it has to know not to poop in the office. It also can’t be barking/hissing/squawking/whipping all about the office while people are trying to work. You want everyone to enjoy meeting your pet and for your pet to enjoy being involved in a part of your life it is normally cut out of, and part of that means having pet that can reasonably control itself.

4. Create a safe place
The key here is to make your pet feel at home instead of territorial. Bring in a favorite blanket or pillow and a baby gate the day before and set up a private spot for your pet to retreat to if the experience becomes too much. Have some treats at the ready for rewarding and leading. If you know there will be other animals there (preferably of the same species), introduce everyone in a neutral space where they can all get to know each other. You can also bring toys for them to smell and get accustomed to one another as well as trade.

5. Total responsibility
As the person who spends the most time with your pet, you know that he has a unique personality on par with any human you know. But that can often blind many pet owners to the fact that a pet is still an animal that operates on instinct and that can’t be reasoned with. Accidents happen, so you have to be on your pet immediately to step in and prevent or fix any problems. Wherever Fido goes, you go. Whenever Fluffy has an accident, you switch jobs to custodian. And if, God forbid, something terrible happens with a co-worker, you should be prepared to replace damaged property and foot medical bills.

Once you take these precautions, you’ll be ready to introduce your pet to your colleagues. And with any luck, you’ll have a new office mascot.

Cubicle Courtesies

Look, it’s no secret that an office job can be a pain. You aren’t paid for commuting, there’s never enough real sugar for coffee, and the thermostat is never set to the right temperature. To top it all off, our co-workers were not selected for their social compatibility. Not since high school have we been forced to interact with such a motley crew.  It’s astounding that work doesn’t more often devolve into an unintelligible screamfest of petty grievances.

But the fact of the matter is that we will end up spending a third of our adult lives together, so it behooves us to try and treat each other with respect. If we can all do each other the following kindnesses, it’ll be the weekend before you know it.

1. Decorate tastefully

The easiest way to make work bearable is to make your cube into a sanctuary. Family photos, band lithographs, and graphic art are all great, so long as they are tasteful. Exercise common sense, though; no nudity, for example. Boticceli’s Birth of Venus is a welcome exception, but keep your framed Leonard Nemoy at home. You should also feel free to bring small religious items, but, to quote “The Man,” “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” That is, you’re here to work, so keep it low-key and, most importantly, the private matter that it is. The main point here is to decorate in moderation. Minimizing how much beige is in your field of vision is one thing, but too many pictures and knick-knacks can be distracting and send the message to your bosses that you’d rather be anywhere but here.

2. Keep the humor light

Humor is great for making and deepening personal connections, and pinning up cartoons is a great way to let your co-workers know that you’re more than just another person in a cube. But humor gets a lot of people in trouble. Far Side cartoons are ubiquitous on cubicle walls because they are unexpectedly funny yet unoffensive. But do yourself a favor and keep anything political like Tom Tomorrow to your Facebook timeline. Memes are also dangerous territory, as many are politically or sociologically oriented and are the textual equivalent of being screamed at. Unless, of course, it’s an Office Space meme; so long as it isn’t clearly directed at any of your co-workers.

3. Neutralize your smells

First off, if the office smells like anything other than paper, plastic, and carpet, it smells bad. You can do your part by showing up bathed and in clean clothes. Don’t bring scented candles to work, don’t keep an open car freshener in your drawer, and absolutely do not wear perfume or cologne. This isn’t singles paper pushing, it’s your job, and so long as you don’t smell like you just went swimming in the East River, no one cares if you wear designer fragrance. Not to mention, there are some people who are genuinely allergic to their components, so just don’t do it.

Then there are your food smells. The break room invariably becomes a hodgepodge of rather strange smells, but that is where they should stay. For those of you who like to work through your lunch breaks, stick to cold lunches like sandwiches or salads. Heating your meal just makes it smellier, so if you’re having fish or something particularly spicy or fragrant, suck it up and endure the small talk with your co-workers in the break room. You never know, you might find you actually like them.

4. If I can hear you, you are too loud

Speaking of table manners, if you’re going to eat at your desk, chew with your mouth closed. This goes double for gum. Actually, no matter where you are, don’t smack your food.

For many, phone calls are unavoidable, so make sure your ringer is turned down. If you need to take or make a personal call, do it on your cell phone outside of the office. When it comes to intraoffice communication, there’s little reason to call or pop in. It’s 2016; if it can’t be asked or expressed in an email or instant message, it’s because your computer has exploded.

And for the sake of your ears if not your cube mates, turn your music down. Ask any 13 to 25 year old—your music taste stinks. It doesn’t matter what it is, no matter if it’s reigned atop the Billboard for 20 weeks; or if it’s Pitchfork’s current favorite coveted album; or if it’s your buddy’s avant-garde, lo-fi foray into salsa-soweto-polka-fusion; nobody wants to hear it. It goes without saying that, unless you have been dubbed the office DJ, you should only listen to music on headphones, and at a volume that isn’t spilling out in sharp, tinny screeches. You were probably not hired to be a musician, either. Incessant whistling, finger tapping, or bouncing your leg is annoying—yes, to everyone. And if you love to sing, Stewie Griffin has a message for you:

6. Find your own dang supplies

You’re more likely to be told to “keep your hands to yourself” in sexual harassment training, but you should extrapolate that to mean “keep your hands within your cube.” Just because someone is out of their cube doesn’t mean their stuff is up for grabs. The only supplies you get for free are the ones out of the supply closet. If you didn’t get it out of the closet or with your own money, it’s not yours. Quickly borrowing a nearby pen is one thing—so long as you immediately return it. But if you’re constantly snagging highlighters or someone’s staple remover until they ask for it back, then you are why work doesn’t buy better pens. Your office manager would be happy to order you a new stapler, so leave Milton’s alone.

We’re all just marching towards 5:00, so in the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln, be excellent to each other.